By Rotimi Fasan
THE signs that this would be a ghastly year were quite clear from the beginning of the year. Starting with the mindless and totally meaningless New Year’s eve/day killings masterminded by a cultist that would himself be killed weeks later in Rivers State, it should have been clear that Nigerians would have a hard time of this year.
The mass killings of the worshippers returning from church on that first day of the year would be followed a few days later by more gory tales of mass murder, namely, the massacre of nearly 80 Nigerians, specifically, 73 villagers in Benue State. There have been reports that have so far remained unchallenged that there have been mass killings on a scale that exceeded the 12 January, 2018 killings in Oguma in the same Benue-Plateau region.
Since the beginning of the year, there has been no week without reports of some villages sacked, towns turned upside down even as civil authorities cry for help that is hardly forthcoming from both police and military personnel that are now mostly seen as biased and therefore part of the problems they are expected to resolve. Most of these killings were perpetrated by cattle herders that operate by their own codes of self-made laws.
It was amid all of this that Boko Haram operatives invaded Dapchi right under the nose of the military personnel drafted there and carted away like mere cattle, school girls whose actual number are yet a matter of conjectures. The military, according to villagers and others in the know, had been alerted about the presence of Boko Haram insurgents but there was neither any acknowledgement of the villagers’ SOS nor was there any response from the military after the attack.
Even as the rampaging cattle herders are yet to call a truce and Boko Haram carries on in the sideline, both the pen robbers in government and their armed kin on the loose, have kept the country on tenterhooks. In their latest outrage, the armed bandits, close kin of the pen and business bandits that have been trading insults as to who has looted the treasury more than the other and is therefore deserving of an ignominious place on a so-called looters list – in their latest rebuke of constituted authorities, the armed bandits invaded Offa in Kwara State and most violently looted at least five banks.
At least, 50 Nigerians, including scores of police officers were reportedly mowed down in cold blood as their stations came under unprovoked attacks before the armed terrorists made for the banks that were their primary points of call. Unlike our compatriots in civilian garbs, these killers made no pretence about who or what they are- killers.
They were excited by the sight of blood and went straight to their grim business, taking lives at random, allegedly targeting the head of their victims. And that’s another dimension of the type of strange killings that have blighted our land – they are as macabre as they could possibly be. The cattle herders never kill their victims except they had taken out their intestines and removed the fetuses in the womb of women.
Baddo killers in Ikorodu would only kill with grinding stones and pestle – bludgeoning their victims out of existence. Yet, we are supposed to be human beings. Which animals go after their kinds in this manner? It’s incredible that in the Offa killings, as were others before, so many lives would be taken, not as if at a border flashpoint between Nigeria and a country with which we are at war. That so many would meet their untimely end in the course of their legitimate business is beyond comprehension. It is worse than an indictment of legitimate authorities.
In other places, the people and their leaders would by now be going around with heads shaven, sitting on ashes, wearing mourning clothes or flying their national flag at half mast. Only on account of two people that were attacked with nerve gas have Britain and scores of her allies including the United States, been on the warpath with Russia, the alleged offender. Yet, the victims, an ex-spy and his daughter, are not even British citizens.
But it took President Muhammadu Buhari months to visit the victims of the mass slaughters in Benue and Taraba states, and this on the red carpet with school pupils called out to line the route of the presidential visitor, celebrating the death of their kind? Where government can no longer guarantee the security of the people what is left to do? Security is collective, we are told, but then some people are saddled with the responsibility of ensuring we can sleep with our eyes closed. They have the means of making this possible. But the Buhari govermment is failing Nigerians, it is tasking the patience of our people as are the time servers called legislators at the National Assembly.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Bill Gates called attention to the scant attention being paid to human capital development in this country. Our leaders like to point to the number of houses, road networks and power stations they have built as if these infrastructure are their own ends. They pay no attention to the human component for who these capital assets are put in place.
Citizens themselves harp on about the type of material rewards they expect to be provided. Granted these things are important, but how well can they replace the human component? Humanity is losing its relevance in Nigeria even when we do not have anything, not even robots that some in other places could lay claim to, to serve in the place of human beings. The young do not appear to have a future to look forward to.
What future is there where young women can be herded into captivity when they are not being married out prematurely? What future exists where we cannot feed ourselves, where our young men and women become migrants dying in their thousands in strange places? What future can there be where education is underfunded and our hospitals and other health facilities have either become abattoirs where medical procedures are conducted with candle light and university campuses are without electricity and workers are constantly on strike?
The only power the cowards who go around on killing sprees have over their victims is their possession of weapons of violence. Where the state can no longer protect the people, where police officers are now reserved for those who can afford their service, what should the people do? Should they take up arms for their own protection or look on until they are killed one by one as Theophilus Danjuma has warned? Shall we resort to self help?